Active View CPM Brings Change to Display Advertising

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February 11, 2014

Google AdWords Active View CPM

The most common display advertising cost structure is and always has been the CPM model, or cost-per-thousand impressions.  CPM is a semi-standard option that has been available across the full gamut of advertising options for years and years.  In fact, CPM stems all the way back to the olden days of print ads.  Remember those?  Oh, good… me neither.

The goal of the CPM advertising model is a very simple one at its root.  The advertiser seeks to expand advertising reach and ensure that ads have been viewed by as many users as possible.  Seems simple enough, and, conceptually, it’s a sound strategy.  Unfortunately, the cold, hard truth is that there has always been one unavoidable problem: measurability.

No worries though. We can kiss this problem goodbye with the advent of Active View CPM, because this bidding model guarantees that your ads are seen.  Display advertisers everywhere, REJOICE!

What Is Active View CPM?

It’s actually quite simple. Google AdWords Active View CPM measures and charges an account only when impressions are deemed “viewable”. Viewable impressions are recorded when at least 50% of your ad is visible on a user’s screen for at least one second or longer. This means advertisers will now actually know when their ads have been seen by an individual.  This knowledge is incredibly insightful and can help make your display ads much more effective.

Historically, it has not been possible to effectively gauge how many eyes actually viewed your ad because you were charged if an ad was simply was loaded on a page and not necessarily if a user actually saw the ad. That means, if you are using “regular CPM” bidding, you are being charged for impressions that appear well below the page fold. These impressions aren’t actually ever seen by anyone. This is a very ineffective use of advertising budget.

Cue music: The Price Is Wrong

Active View CPM Setup & Reporting

This is an easy one, too. All advertisers are eligible and can enable Active View CPM bidding with a quick click. Visit your display campaigns’ settings tab, view the bid options, and check the Active View CPM box. Just like that, you’re opted in and you can now reap the benefits of this truly awesome bidding option.

Google AdWords Active View CPM Bidding

As if that wasn’t enough there’s also a complete set of Active View metrics that are available.  Click on the columns button in your Campaign, Ad Groups, or within any level of you Display Network reports.  Then click on the Performance (Active View) section and add the metrics you’d like to report on.  Viewable impressions, viewable CTR, and viewable average CPM are the available options.

Google AdWords Active View CPM Columns

Below is an example of a test that I began just a few short weeks ago.  The results are already promising.  The biggest surprise here is the discrepancy between actual impressions and viewable impressions – sometimes the difference is over two times greater between the two.  You can also see how viewable CTR and average CPM are both affected as a result.  Take a look:

Google AdWords Active View CPM Metrics

This data provides two main takeaways:

  1. Simply understanding the sheer number of impressions that are NOT viewable and would otherwise be accumulating spend
  2. Understanding how my ads are performing when they are viewable.

From here I can now optimize my bids for position and active view CTR on particular placements and keywords. This is something I wouldn’t have been able to do in the past and would be mostly guesswork.

If display campaigns are a primary focus of your AdWords efforts, then stop paying for impressions that aren’t seen! Opt into Active View CPM today to boost your GDN campaigns’ visibility and help generate more insightful data.

Have you tried Active View CPM yet?  What results have you seen?

Stephen Kapusta is a Senior Search Project Manager and trainer specializing in search and display advertising. He is best at finding creative opportunities to reach the audience throughout the conversion funnel by matching content to intent and focusing on providing the right user experiences at the right time. His education experience in media and rhetoric helped mold this marketing approach.

  • Joe V.

    I think it should be noted that not all of your active view impressions are necessarily above the fold. I would agree that a large majority of them probably are however, viewability is not a measure of that ad position. I’d be very curious to see the viewability of a campaign that was run solely below the fold. The cost may be significantly low enough to entice display bargain shoppers as long as there is a significant amount of eyes on target.

    • Stephen Kapusta

      Hi Joe, the active view impression will, in fact, inherently always be above the fold because there cannot be an active view impression unless the ad is at least partially on the user’s screen. The initial impression, however, might be below the fold. As a user scrolls down the page and the ad is revealed this initial impression becomes an active view impression. I think you make a great point here though. It would be interesting to combine active view CPM bidding with a position based automated rule to get the most visible ad impressions within your budget as possible. Keep us posted on how active view CPM works out for you.

  • jmagnone

    Hi Stephen,

    I have the following questions:

    When you suggest to combine “Active View CPM Bidding” with a “position based automated rule”, what would be your goal? Making the ads to appear in any desired position for search network or display network, or both?

    Regarding Active View CPMs, I understand the CPM Bid for ads that are viewable should be higher than the Avg. CPM. Is there any benchmark or value that you’d recommend for setting the initial Active View CPM? In my case, I am trying to run new campaign following this active view bid strategy. Previously I ran campaigns based only on Clicks (CPC), for example in one of the campaigns I had an average CPC of $ 0.75 and a calculated CPM that was about $ 1.70. From this data, I cannot figure exactly what would be a CPM amount that will make sense for an Active View Campaign. What CPM would you use to get started?

    Best Regards,


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